By Tamas Mondovics

RMCA Wimauma Academy officials were pleased to welcome six and seventh grade students who got their first tour of a new school built especially for them just in time for the 2012-2013 school year.

The new 12,000-sq.-ft. RCMA Leadership Academy, a charter middle school at 18234 U.S. Hwy. 301 S. in Wimauma, is now located next door to RCMA Wimauma Academy, an 11-year-old elementary school operated by Redlands Christian Migrant Association.

According to RCMA Director of Communications and Marketing Bill Coats, both schools were created to provide high-quality education customized to the bicultural lives of south Hillsborough County’s low-income families.

“Nearly all children in the two schools have Spanish-speaking parents, while schooling is conducted in English,” Coats said. “The two schools are extensions of RCMA’s larger role of early childhood education for Florida’s rural poor. RCMA runs 18 child care centers in the Tampa Bay area and 71 statewide.”

Wimauma Academy currently has 172 students and expects a total of 195 by November. It has 11 teachers, plus support staff.

Coats explained that the fundraising campaign for the $3.2 million RCMA Leadership Academy began in 2008 and, with the support of dozens of local growers and agricultural organizations, among them Wish Farms owner Gary Wishnatzki, who has donated close to $300,000 toward the project so far, the school has raised about $1.6 million.

Other supporters included Tampa businessman John Kirtley, who, according to Coats, donated close to $200,000 toward the project last year, along with a number of other local growers who have helped differ the cost.

The Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center as well as the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center have also donated more than $50,000 a piece.

RCMA Leadership Academy boasts of eight classrooms, a 900-sq.-ft. area for administrative offices, also a cafeteria and auditorium, which is scheduled to be fully completed by next month.

Coats emphasized that RCMA Wimauma has earned an “A” rating six times out of the past nine years; however, for many of the children whose first language is Spanish entering middle school in area public schools presents a number of challenges.

“Entering middle school is not an easy process for our students coming out of an environment that we have created for them,” Coats said. “We are happy to allow them to stay with the charter school program during their middle school curriculum.”

Renovation of the school’s original buildings is also planned as the remaining projects reach completion.

For more information about RCMA Wimauma Academy, please visit

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.